Perfect winter conditions greeted wine industry surfers who gathered near Stilbaai in the Boland for the annual Rip Curl Vitner's Surf Classic.
Duncan Savage from Cape Point vineyards won the Junior division (under 35 yrs) of the event, which is supported by Rip Curl and Reynolds Rocha. Annual standout Gunter Schultz, from Tamboerskloof, won the Seniors (36 to 43) while Gary van Wyk from Takana Vineyards won the Masters (44 years and older).
Solid 4' surf greeted the riders at the small reef and sand spit they call Kakgat at 8am - early start to get through a mammoth 28 heats in the three age divisions, plus ladies, who boasted all of one contestant. Conditions were at times testing with a solid overhead shorebreak and outgoing tidal rip keeping contestants sharp as they tried to paddle out.
"In the very first heat of the day, one guy took almost 10 minutes to get out to the back. He only got one scorable ride," said organiser Miles Mossop, who hails from Tokara wines.
But once the tide turned and began to push, the surf filled in with solid 3- 5 footers on the outside.
was blasted by westerly near-gales, driving rain and wild seas, the Boland was sunny and mild with clean surf. A brief buster and a rain shower passed through at midday, then backed away to enable the second half, and the finals, of the event to proceed in pushing glassy waves in the afternoon. "There were whitecaps out to sea, but hardly any wind on the coast," said Mossop. Cape Town
The riders who made the finals revelled in the clean surf, although there were some heavy wipeouts on the ledge. Beginner Albert Ahrens was to later win the Shark Bait Award after he was swept hundreds of metres out to sea in a strong rip. He was rescued by Francois Hanekom, who later won The Hof (David Hasselhof) Award to much hilarity at the prize giving held at the Stable in the evening.
In another first, Martin Smith of Vilafonte stunned the crowd with his Standup Paddle Board riding, the first time one of these craft have been entered the competition, in which any type of surfboard goes, from longboards to fish and to short boards.
Smith tried to impress the crowd with a set wave from the outside reef, and was racing the section across the reef with great aplomb until he got hammered by the curling inside bowl, much to the delight of onlookers.
"It was another wonderful event, with fantastic catering, cool drinks and kegs of beer to keep everyone nourished, followed by a festive prize giving dinner and much spontaneous mirth at the Stables Restaurant in Stilbaai afterwards, said Mossop.
Mossop noted with pleasure that winemakers really came to the party this year in terms of bringing 'heaps' of their own wine to the function.
The traditional bottle of Big Red was dished out to contestants, "slightly more of an easy drinking wine this year that should be consumed quite soon". The Big Red is a 1.5 litre bottle of blended wine comprising contributions from the entering wine estates who donate the wine before the event.